I have a good work ethic, and stay very productive (better than when I'm in a client's offices.) And IM is a life-saver with the teams I'm on.
The biggest challenge to transitioning to WFH was not the kids. They respect my office as a workspace and really go out of their way not to interrupt me.
No, the biggest challenge was my wife. It took over a year -- a YEAR -- for her to recognize that I was working. For the longest time, I was "playing on my computer" or "surfing the Internet" or whatever the daily description might entail.
One day, she emotionally finally reached a conclusion: "I simply cannot count on you as being available to take care of things here at home while you're working." Bingo!
And that was the crux of it -- working at home didn't mean working while living life at home, it meant physically working from home. I explained how I was mentally at work, and not at home. As soon as she accepted the fact that I was earning a living while still being in our home, everything fell into place.
I'm not so busy that I don't stop to eat lunch, so we would still go out on days where I didn't have quite so much to do and could afford the extra hour or so that eating somewhere other than my dining room requires, but then he would do things like remember he needed to stop somewhere else and could we just do that while we're out so he doesn't have to drive all the way back into town? (We live in a fairly rural area) So a trip out for lunch would turn into lunch, grocery store, his business (he owns a store here in town), bank, etc. and suddenly the hour and a half I'd planned to take off had turned into three or four.
I can't say I blame him. I enjoy spending the time with him and it's nice to get out and do some things together during the day while the kid's in school, but it just isn't practical most days. Now we very clearly plan what we're going to do when we go out on the days I'm working and he's not.
Funny how the brain works. I obviously knew it, intellectually, but I would still get a bit bummed out or wonder if she was mad at me or whatever when she'd sit in the house "just being on the computer" for 7 hours and not talk to me. Especially when I wouldn't normally be home, I'd be looking forward to spending a bit more time together. Sometimes I'd give her a hug or something and it took a while for her to mention "look, it's not that I don't like you, it's just like how you would feel if I turned up in your office and gave you a cuddle while you were in the middle of doing something - my brain is in full work mode, it can't instantly switch to affection mode". This reversal of opinion - imagining having my SO around my office wanting to hang out and chat and have coffee and how distracting and kind of irritating it would be - is when it finally clicked for me.
Of course now I feel foolish for ever thinking that way, and all's well. But I sympathise with your wife!
I leave the dishes in the sink, leave the mail in the mailbox, don't pick up the random stuff laying on the floor, etc. The result is that my SO comes home and there are a bunch of unresolved physical tasks that need to be done. It looks as though I had been at an office doing work and also just came home.
Kind of odd psychology going on, but it works for me right now.
I wish it was something I addressed better up front.
For others, keep in mind that it's a two-way street. If you want your SO to give you space to be 'at work', then it is important for you to stay in work mode on a predictable schedule.
These tips were very good and I've found them to be very true though it can be a challenge to implement them even if you know you should.
Those who work from home should heed my warning: it's not just wives and girlfriends who won't get you're actually working, pretty much everyone else will take a while to get that you're working, not living some awesome fantasy life where you do whatever you want, whenever you want and your bank account just fills with magic funds.
This is an excellent quote. It says things about humanity that I haven't been able to put to such succinct form before. Thank you.
Work will still be there when they're in bed.
I'm not suggesting that either way is right, but just that those are my priorities and they work for me.
Also it may have some to do with my own ways of working - I intersperse work with playing games, browsing the net, doing DIY, playing games with kids, walking the dog etc. I don't have any "work" or "non work" times really (Or an office - I usually work on the sofa in the living room). When I get stuck on work I might play a game on the Wii, and solve the problem while I'm racing round a mario cart track. It works for me, but quite possibly not others...
I work on different projects for various clients, so my time demands aren't always consistent but I often need to stay heads-down for extended times.
Very cool your time commitments permit you to jump in/out. My output would suffer, and I need the isolation to focus, so that environment wouldn't work well for me. But that's the key -- finding how it works for one's self and family is the correct answer, though results may vary from person to person.
The points about planning are very well made; it's vital to keep yourself aware of what you're doing.
But you do need to work hard at not losing it. I've lost days to multiplayer 8 ball pool on miniclip (I'm like a sniper on that thing). Right now I've been wearing these clothes all week (but I did have a shower yesterday!). It's difficult when there are other people around - my wife used to get in from work at 5 and start chatting to me and I had to continually remind her that I don't finish till 5.30. I miss fresh air, and I miss talking to people, even though I'm something of a recluse.
It can be hugely fun though! You get a massive amount of control over your workflow, and you get as big a desk as you can fit in your room. Right now I have a shelf unit filled with toy robots in front of me! I voice-skype with my boss almost every day, and we chat on skype all the time. I don't have to worry about taking a few minutes off to pop to the post office or whatever. I save time by not having any traveling time, and I get to make the joke that I walk to work every day!
So in terms of the effects on you personally, yes it can be depressing, but it can also be fun, especially if you manage yourself.
In terms of how it affects your work, we have found that we miss the little 'pondering' conversations by the proverbial water cooler. If I have a problem I'm working on and it gets too much and I want to take a break, I sit at my desk, at home, either tweeting or just thinking to myself. If was at work I might wander over to my boss's desk and start chatting about that product idea we had last week, so it's worth trying to build in some mechanisms to replace those kind of chats between you and your co-workers.
Its very nice because, as you said, you control everything.
However it is also very bad because you do not have enough contact with other humans.
And I'm not saying this because there no one to chit-chat, but because there is no one to talk about work. As a developer, getting input from others, even if they tell you that what you are doing sucks or does not worth it, is very important because a) In case they say bad things it can help you improve it and b) If they are wrong, it reassures you of what you are doing, giving you confidence. When you do not have anyone to share work with, you can get stuck for hours even if you are writing the best code of your life.
Regarding interruptions I think I learned how to deal with them. I try not to fight myself so if I want to go watch some series or do some other stuff, I just do it. When I need to deliver something my brain naturally does not make me want do other stuff than work so I gave up trying to control this. Instead I use the energy that I get from not fighting my body in work when I really need to do it.
For example, you brought up lack of human contact, and I sympathize. Team interaction was huge for me when I worked in an office, and I didn't realize how much I took it for granted until I started working from home. When you trade that for the solitude and separation that comes with working from home, things get lonely
fast. However, when I really need to get work done, the solitude is a huge net positive.
I've experienced many other this-for-that trade offs, but the social loss is one that I identify with the most. I think software developers have a stereotype of sitting in front of a computer and writing code all day, mostly in isolation. That may be true to a varying degree, but I think the social aspects of software development are underrated, and working from home has helped me realize that.
Personally I find much more value in not being disturbed all the time and avoid the harassment that work in an office can bring to your life. On the other side, even if it´s harder to do tech work on my own I think I prefer this to having to waste time commuting and get caught in middle of unproductive conversations all the time.
Living alone and working alone sounds like a recipe for insanity. You've gotta have some time with other people, regardless of how much of an introvert you may be.
I don't think I've gone insane quite yet ;) Lots of IM and regularly making excuses to go be around people (meetup groups, running errands, working somewhere with people for a while) seems to be working for now.
I've also found that when working from home, I crave that social interaction. I'm in the creative business and some of the best ideas I've ever had have come through collaboration with coworkers.
I love the idea of working from home. I just don't know if it will ever work for me.
Offices desensitize employees to lots of distractions, which seem to become addictive: phones ringing non-stop, colleagues interrupting, clients visiting, random music playing in the background, fitting in with certain rules etc. The silence of working from home is refreshing at first, but then the dark clouds kick in and you start to adapt. Exercise is the best cure to depression.
Overall, the thing that I think has kept me both productive and sane is working hard to have external passions. For me, it's outdoor sports like rock climbing and mountain biking, and if you just decide that you're going to get out for a few hours every day and do some non-work thing that you love, then you have a justification for being productive during the portion of the day that you are actually working. I also find that doing these sports brings me into contact with other people beyond my girlfriend and house mate, which is definitely a very appreciated bonus after being cooped up in the house by yourself for so many hours a week.
Working from home can absolutely destroy your social skills, especially if you end up working at weird hours. When you do go and meet people you can sometimes realise that you have absolutely nothing interesting to talk about because all you have done for the last month is sit in your house in front of your computer either working or trying to work.
Monthly/weekly/daily goals across some main areas of work (planning, production, strategy, promotion, etc) has been a super big help for me.
The biggest help for me is to have very specific overall goals to achieve. Being laser-focused on those makes a big difference towards making the small decisions that take you forward and keep you focused.
Don't you feel lonely/unmotivated to do it that way? IMO hotels are not very conducive for creativity, and the quest to find a connection every day was a bit tiring at times. Something I missed was not getting to know other people doing the same thing. I could not imagine doing it on the long term.
On the other hand, it's great to just be able to do that and work from a totally different country for some time, and doing a bit of travelling :-) I just imagined it could be a sustainable lifestyle for me, but it was not.
Staying at serviced appartment type of places makes you feel like home (a kitchen in your hotel room has a lot of value even though you never use it. but you could).
It helps if you're not the most talkative person.
I couldn't believe how much being able to make my own cup of tea in the morning makes a place feel more like home.
(If the girlfriend gets a sudden attack of sanity and dumps me, I'll try to organise living in Japan for a few years.)
Japan would be great. I'll head there too if things go well enough that I can afford it. I'm on more of a Vietnam budget at the moment.
Not that I mind, lovely and interesting place.
- Working from home on my own projects is much more fulfilling than working on someone else's.
- No matter how much money you earn, most people assume that people working from are barely scraping by, or somehow non-ambitious.
If anyone else is thinking of doing this though I would recommend making sure you have a room somewhere that you can use almost exclusively for work.
I live in a small house and share with people who are unemployed and since my bedroom is not big enough to fit a desk and a computer I end up having to work in what is basically a communal area of the house and also on the path to the kitchen.
We have a sort of agreement that they will try and give me some space but having people walking to and fro behind me whenever they need to get to the kitchen or coming through 'just to quickly ask me something' is cancer to productivity since they will always interrupt you when your in 'the zone', they don't really understand that 10 seconds of disturbance probably costs me 20 minutes of work on average.
This can also put stresses on your personal relationships since it's easy to be pretty short with people when they disturb you.
I've also found that the small conversations with fellow dog-owners you meet on the walks can substitute a little for the water cooler interactions in a normal work place.
If you have kids, I came up with "Ticket Time" to help assuage the guilt over not hanging out with your kids while working and give them something to look forward to so they don't wander downstairs on a whim. It works best in the summer when they're not in school.
The kids get a playing card in the morning and they can use it to come down and spend 5 minutes with me. We'll throw or kick a ball around, play a quick game of UNO or something like that. They love it and its fun for me to have some time with them that I wouldn't have in the office.
I work on the east coast for a west coast company, and that means that scheduling is a constant problem for me. Some people in the office are most productive in the last couple of hours of the core work day (i.e. 3 to 5) and that is tough for me because I'm trying to have dinner with my family and get kids ready for bed.
The wife and kids all understand that when I am in my office I am "at work" and interruptions are considered just as if they were asking me to take time from the office and come back home.
The biggest challenge for me when I was shifting into this method of work is the fact that work is always just a few steps away. When you are passionate about your work and job, your brain doesn't stop working just because you aren't at your desk anymore. When a great idea comes to you or you remember something that you really need to schedule or write down, it is very easy to say, "I'll be right back" and suddenly lose an hour or two of your free time. I won't say I have conquered this challenge yet (my wife would scoff so loud I think HN might actually pick it up and post it as a reply), but being aware of it is the critical part. When you are about to say, "I'll be right back", think about what the ramifications would be if you were gone for over an hour.
I love being able to use my own equipment, being comfortable, not being interrupted by the constant office noises and being able to do whatever I want. Plus the time saved on not having to commute I can work overtime and make more money.
In the office I have to use their desk, their chair, their shitty monitor. At home I can use all my own equipment, everything is there and everything works. I can take breaks at my leisure and because I'm more productive I can play games, or watch some TV, or go out for a 20 minute walk.
I also save 4 hours a day on commuting while working from home. Time which can then be spent either working extra, for more money, doing things around my apartment, hanging out with my wife.
After 3 1/2 years of working from home my wife doesn't bother me, or at the very least, she knows when I can be bothered. It's about setting boundaries. I also work with a partner who's also working at home who I can talk to and get assistance from.
I'm sure it all depends on what kind of job you are doing, I provide tech support to customers all around the world. Somedays it can be really busy and some days it can be extremely slow.
When doing the pomodoro technique I usually go for 45 minutes work units + 10 minutes break. That way you get longer focus and when you take a break it's a real break (so you can get out and walk for a bit for example).
trying it now, getting gold for completed pomodoros ...
Sorry, I realize this doesn't really advance the discussion.
Unfortunately, the added focus you get from working in an office is lost to possibility of being able to do anything anytime. And what's bad about that, is that you tell yourself on certain tasks that "you can do it anytime, and I'll just post to HN now".
An ordered todo list is the most important tool you have when working from home.
Also, a gratuitous link to an image of my home office http://bit.ly/sItzcW
I like the idea of doing the tasks before 2pm. Might try that.
Bart: [walking up] Now for Operation Strike-Make-Go-Longer. [to teacher] You know, I heard Skinner say the teachers will crack any minute.
[the teachers whisper it forward through the line]
Teacher: [to Edna] Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute purple monkey dishwasher.
Edna: Well! We'll show him, especially for that "purple monkey dishwasher" remark.
[everyone shouts their assent]
For me the social piece was the hardest part. Luckily for me there are a couple of co-working places that I hit up once or twice a week. I try to schedule coffee or lunch as much as possible with people I know, and don't know. I also do the occasional coffee shop session, but I can't stay there too long b/c their chairs usually suck.
So I would recommend that people try to network more. Get out of the house. Go do some co-working. You will find that you are not alone on an island, and that really helps.
Then freaking do it and return to your work with new vigor.
Stop feeling guilty about it. This always makes you more productive. If you were stuck in a cube you'd just be miserable and reading reddit anyway, or you'd walk around the campus. No different.
Your reasoning however for learning to be interrupted in our life, is something I am not necesarily sure about. Are humans just simply bad at long stretches of focus? I am not sure but i am and thats why I use the pomodoro.
This is a great question. I think the answer is: It depends on what you mean by focus.
Humans are certainly capable of long periods of concentration, of all sorts. Sitting in a tree waiting for the prey to come into range. Sitting under the tree patiently digging out edible roots. Sitting in a band jamming for twelve hours straight. Sitting facing the wall in Zen meditation.
But, in programming, the word focus has a specific and somewhat paradoxical meaning. When we are focused on programming it feels as if we are focused on something. And yet when you think about what you're actually doing in programming the word focus seems less and less appropriate.
Here's programming: You think about the feature you want to build, and then you think about the existing system that you want to attach it to, and then you think about the big picture, and then you think about an individual data structure. And then you sketch the module on a whiteboard, and then you write an empty module file, and then you use a C debugger to find and fix a bug in the module loader, and then you patiently write an editor macro to change a giant text file from XML to JSON, and then you write a unit test for the JSON parser. Then you write the parser. Then you stare at the parser and try to imagine explaining it to a junior PHP developer. And then you sigh and mentally kick yourself for overdesigning and quickly reimplement the parser, except without the tricky metaclass and the tail recursion and the nifty hack that reads like obfuscated Perl, and then you sigh again and get some coffee. And then you find the module loader is still broken after all and you do ten minutes of research into alternative module loaders, during which you realize that maybe you should have used an entirely different framework for this system and make a note to research the alternative framework for your next system.
And this is what programmers call "focus": Bouncing up and down among five or six layers of abstraction, hopefully doing no individual task for longer than five minutes at a time. (After all, this is programming: If you've got an hour of rote typing to do, why isn't there a macro that can do it for you?) But you're focused on something, because the hours are flying by and if someone interrupts you, you tend to want to throw things at them.
And perhaps this is why we programmers have such trouble with focus: The state we call "incredibly productive focus" is actually oddly difficult to distinguish from ADD. But it's focused ADD, and that's the secret.
For anything where flow might be important, I don't use the pomodoro and I block out a stretch of time. I work on those tasks at home as a large open plan office becomes impossible.
Whenever I read about people having trouble maintaining focus or I see people around me with the same issue, I wonder what it is about my life experience that may have made the difference. There's a few things that spring out to me:
1. I was introduced to meditation at a young age
2. I spent a lot of my youth playing pen and paper based RPGs
3. I spent a lot of my youth reading novels when I wasn't playing pen and paper RPGs
4. I spent a lot of my youth painting miniatures for table-top war games and playing said war games when I wasn't reading or playing pen and paper RPGs
I believe these activities assisted in cultivating an improved ability to focus generally, and particularly to focus on tasks that are not immediately accessible. This focus has served me well in my professional life.
if [ -n "$1" ]; then
rlwrap bash -c 'read -p "current task: " -r task; echo $task > $task_file'
# don't keep a handle open to current directory
echo "$(now): $task" >> ~/.pomodoro
echo "25 minutes starting now"
I worked from home a fair few years back, and by the time my housemate came home, I was bouncing off the walls with the excitement of someone to talk to. He, who had been in the office all day, just wanted to watch TV and talk to no-one.
I started working from home again earlier this year, this time with Twitter in my life. Twitter/Tweetdeck provides the perfect office banter for me. My friends chat, I join in if I want to. Industry contacts and peers discuss worky stuff - not only do I get to interact with them, but it also means I don't fall behind with what's happening.
I do still find I need to pencil 'go outside' into my diary every day, though...
You can use it for free at http://tomatoes.heroku.com and get its source code at http://github.com/potomak/tomatoes
I could probably be about as productive as I am at home if I shut the door to my office. I suspect I wouldn't get much more responsive than I am at home, though.
About half of my consulting gigs are 100% remote and every other time I turn down a full-time offer with "I'm flattered but enjoy living in Ogaki" I get told "We could totally work with that."
When I was in high school I got my first contract programming job building a CRM app for sales from the ground up. The guy I built it for was building a business around that app, selling access to businesses with small to medium sales teams...
When I finished that, I immediately thought "why did I just build all that for him, so that he can make the real money selling the app I just built, when I could have done it for myself?"... and that was the end of contract programming for me. I started building web apps of my own and work from home running them.
I'm currently working on the sofa, dog curled up by my feet, watching TV :) Most days I take a bath at 2pm. Rock n roll!
(Funny sketch about working from home. Don't click if you get easily offended http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co_DNpTMKXk )
The only problem is, now I'm working from home full time, my friends accuse me of that all the time...
a) First and foremost....I will make it a point to go to places where I meet people....Some such places can be gym,yoga classes,bars/clubs if I am single.
b) I will travel as much as possible....How I see it,there is actually some productivity to be gained from working on your friends couch in miami for a month.
c) Be much much more efficient.The shackles of bureaucracy are not holding me back anymore.There is no reason I should not be able to produce 10 times as much than some average kid at xyz corp.10 times is actually a pretty modest goal.
d) Music,Adderall and daily exercise to increase focus.
e) Occasional mary jane sessions with stoner friends to increase creativity.
But then maybe its easier said than done!...Any comments from people who are already working from home independently?
The one thing that I figured out and continue to figure out is that plans are a completely different beast when self-employed, compared to your school years or regular employment. The challenge to be not just responsible for turning meaningful interest into work, but also creating that meaning in the first place might not seem that significant, but it's an extremely tough thing. Saying that you plan on being much, much more efficient is all fine and well, but what if you don't actually now what to do with all that efficiency?
Also - not to be too patronizing on your personal choices, but you already have two counts of drug use in your plans plus traveling, clubs, etc.. That doesn't really sound like a plan for working, but one for not working (there is also much /distraction/ to be gained from slouching on somebodies couch in Miami for a month). That's fine and everything and it might help you keep your balance, but you really don't have much of a plan for the actual work part.
it will drag over the week for sure, and will seem way too much more fun/important than work.
my stories are from a younger me, but include:
taking the engine of a motorcycle (a vintage honda trail) out to take it to a shop to redo some threads and get rid of an oil leak... ended up dismantling the entire bike to re-paint it.
taking one sunday to fix the horn of a car (a vintage bmw e34)... ended up dismantling the dashboard and rear firewall of engine compartment to fix/clean all the A/C components
bought an old bicycle on craigslist (bike had some 12yr) to get in shape while biking to work... ended up dismantling the whole thing and restoring it to brand new state. I even opened up the derailleurs and freewheel to properly restore it with original components.